HTTP vs. HTTPS for SEO: What You Need to Know to Stay in Google’s Good Graces

Michael Hernandez is the Founder & President of Rocket Marketing and Design, a full service Internet marketing and web design company in Miami, FL. His main focus is helping both local and nationwide businesses get more customers from the internet. He enjoys reading countless articles and sharing his knowledge by writing for industry websites.

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  • Referring domains 96
  • Organic traffic 710
Data: Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    Back in August of last year Google officially announced that switching your website over to HTTPS will give you a minor ranking boost. 

    So it’s that simple, right? If Google says do it, then let’s do it. 

    For most companies this is exactly the right mentality, but it’s still important to understand what the difference is between HTTP and HTTPS, how to make the switch, and if making the switch is right for your company in the first place. 

    Ultimately, it’s important to ask yourself several questions: Why does Google prefer HTTPS for SEO rankings? What are the SEO benefits of HTTPS

    And also a word of caution: There are some SEO concerns to consider when changing to HTTPS.

    HTTP vs. HTTPS: Understanding the Basics

    No matter what side you are on—being the user of a website or developing your own site—a good online experience tends to involve a trusted third party and good encryption. 

    In order to understand how to achieve this and better understand why Google favors these website elements (and why you should too), it’s important to first learn the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. Below explains the basics of the two options:

    HTTP: HyperText Transfer Protocol

    Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) is a system for transmitting and receiving information across the Internet. HTTP is an “application layer protocol,” which ultimately means that its focus is on how information is presented to the user, however, this option doesn’t really care how data gets from Point A to Point B. 

    It is said to be “stateless,” which means it doesn’t attempt to remember anything about the previous web session. The benefit to being stateless it that there is less data to send, and that means increased speed.

    When is HTTP beneficial?
    Http is most commonly used to access html pages, and it is important to consider that other resources can be utilized through accessing http. This was the way that most websites who did not house confidential information (such as credit card information) would setup their websites.

    HTTPS: Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol

    HTTPS, or “secure http”, was developed to allow authorization and secured transactions. Exchanging confidential information needs to be secured in order to prevent unauthorized access, and https makes this happen. In many ways, https is identical to http because it follows the same basic protocols. The http or https client, such as a Web browser, establishes a connection to a server on a standard port. However, https offers an extra layer of security because it uses SSL to move data.

    For all intents and purposes, HTTPS is HTTP, it’s just the secure version. 

    To get technical on you, the main difference is that it uses TCP Port 443 by default, so HTTP and HTTPS are two separate communications. 

    HTTPS works in conjunction with another protocol, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), to transport data safely (which is really the key difference that Google cares about). 

    Remember, HTTP and HTTPS don’t care how the data gets to its destination. In contrast, SSL doesn’t care what the data looks like (like HTTP does). 

    That is why HTTPS really offers the best of both worlds: Caring about what the user sees visually, but also having an extra layer of security when moving data from point A to point B.

    An Extra Note:
    People often use the terms HTTPS and SSL interchangeably, but that isn’t accurate. HTTPS is secure because it uses SSL to move data. The technicalities can seem complicated, so visit here if you need more detailed information. For most companies, understanding that https is more secure than http is enough. 

    HTTPS and Google’s Opinion

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google prefers sites that are trusted and certified.

    This is because users can be guaranteed that the site will encrypt their information for that extra level of security. However, you should understand that getting a certificate can be an involved task (which is why it allows for higher ranking benefits).

    Breaking it down: When a site goes through the motions of obtaining a certificate, the issuer becomes a trusted third party. When your browser recognizes a secure Web site, it uses the information in the certificate to verify that the site is what it claims to be. A user who knows the difference between HTTP and HTTPS can now buy with confidence, and thus, businesses can get started in electronic commerce because of this credibility.

    With the announcement I addressed in the beginning, Google is now using HTTPS as a ranking signal. It is pretty clear from data analysis that HTTPS sites have a ranking advantage over http-URLs so this switch will now benefit all companies, confidential information or not.

    To get a little bit more detailed, data sent using HTTPS is secured via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS), which provides three key layers of protection:

    • Encryption. Encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure.
    • Data Integrity. Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer without being detected.
    • Authentication proves that your users communicate with the intended website.

    Google claims that websites who use HTTPS will have a small ranking benefit because of these security aspects. 

    Still, HTTPS sites will only have the benefit of a  “very lightweight signal” within the overall ranking algorithm, carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content. 

    According to Search Engine Land, Google said that based on their initial tests the HTTPS signal showed “positive results” in terms of relevancy and ranking in Google’s search results. 

    That same article  predicted that this may change eventually, and Google may decide to strengthen the signal, or give more ranking benefit to HTTPS sites because they want to keep online users secure.

    SEO Advantages of Switching to HTTPS

    It is clear that HTTPS offers security, so it is definitely the choice to put you in Google’s good graces. There are also some additional SEO benefits for you to consider.

    1. Increased rankings.

    The obvious one. As stated, Google has confirmed the slight ranking boost of HTTPS sites. Like most ranking signals, it is very hard to isolate on its own, but this is still something to keep in mind. On the plus side, the value of switching to HTTPS is very likely to increase over time.

    2. Referrer Data.

    When traffic passes to an HTTPS site, the secure referral information is preserved. This is unlike what happens when traffic passes through an HTTP site, and it is stripped away and looks as though it is “direct.”

    3. Security and privacy.

    HTTPS adds security for your SEO goals and website in several ways:

    • It verifies that the website is the one the server it is supposed to be talking to.
    • It prevents tampering by third parties.
    • It makes your site more secure for visitors.
    • It encrypts all communication, including URLs, which protects things like browsing history and credit card numbers.

    So Are There Any SEO Concerns in Switching to HTTPS?

    You really shouldn’t be concerned with switching from HTTP to HTTPS in terms of SEO. Google has been telling webmasters it is safe to do so for years. However, you do need to go through the motions to ensure your traffic doesn’t suffer.

    Make sure to communicate to Google that you moved your site from HTTP to HTTPS

    Google has provided the following tips for best practices when switching to HTTPS:

    • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
    • Use 2048-bit key certificates
    • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
    • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
    • Check out our site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
    • Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
    • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the no index robots meta tag.
    • Google has also updated Google Webmaster Tools to better handle HTTPS sites and the reporting on them.
    • Track your HTTP to HTTPS migration carefully in your analytics software and within Google Webmaster Tools.

    In addition to the Google Support resources, I highly recommend reading a condensed introduction to HTTP/HTTPS and some tips on changing over to SSL/HTTPS here before getting started. 

    This is usually something an IT professional can get done quickly, but it can sometimes be overwhelming for someone who may not have an IT background.

    Below is a quick list of steps to get an outline of the process:

    1. Provide your CSR: You need to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your webserver.
    2. Select the server software used to generate the CSR.
    3. Select the hash algorithm you prefer to use.
    4. Select the validity period for your Certificate.

    Note: You will be licensed to use this Certificate on an unlimited number of servers. It is beneficial to work with a company that establishes SSL connections, as this is all automatically generated once you input information.

    The Takeaway

    The clear conclusion here is that switching to HTTPS will help you stay in good graces with Google. Along with all of the SEO benefits we discussed (which are only going to increase), HTTPS is a far more secure system for your website to operate. Security for your site and your users is the most important aspect of making the switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

    HTTPS is not only good for security but also for referrer data and other SEO strategies. When looking at the issue holistically and considering the future of what Google is likely to do with HTTPS, I recommend switching over to HTTPS, ASAP, to keep up with Google.

    Have you recently switched over to HTTPS and seen any results? Have you run any analyses to see if this switch to HTTPS is helping your SEO? We would love to hear about your experience, so let us know in the comments section below.

    Michael Hernandez is the Founder & President of Rocket Marketing and Design, a full service Internet marketing and web design company in Miami, FL. His main focus is helping both local and nationwide businesses get more customers from the internet. He enjoys reading countless articles and sharing his knowledge by writing for industry websites.

    Article stats

    • Referring domains 96
    • Organic traffic 710
    Data: Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in Google.

    This is not the actual number from Google Analytics. It is an estimation, pulled from Ahrefs' Site Explorer tool.

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    • Great write up Michael! I am actually launching all my new sites on HTTPs now even if they are just information sites. SSL certs are so cheap now there is no reason not too. 

      I wrote up an in-depth migration process if you are on WordPress: http://brianjackson.io/how-to-migrate-from-http-to-https-complete-tutorial/

      Yes it is easy, but I wouldn’t let an average client handle this themselves. If you get one thing wrong you could really do some damage, such as not resubmitting your disavow file in your new GWT profile.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your useful article. One question: If I have been building links to a site and always use “http” when placing the URL, will all the links be in vain if I migrate that site to HTTPS?

    • Shiva Naidu

      Hello Michael Hernandez,
      Currently my site keywords are in top.
      If I go for HTTPS, will my ranking position is going to changes?

    • I get the benefits but I used https with my last site and had so many problems with it that with my newest site I opted to go back to http. The thought of switching now in midstream frankly is a nightmare for so many reasons and at this point they outweigh the little bit of extra juice from Google — especially since I consistently find my site and articles on page one for my keywords. Thanks for the info though because it’s clear to see the direction we’re heading.

      • Hello, I am also thinking about the same!! what about the ranking, whether it was same or have changed???

    • Thanks Michael 🙂

    • Almir Mark

      Thank you for your useful article. One question: If I have been building links to a site and always use “http” when placing the URL, will all the links be in vain if I migrate that site to HTTPS?

    • Sparsh Mehta

      A very insightful article Michael, thanks for sharing! I have just one question: you say that the referral data isn’t preserved when traffic passes through an http site. Yet I see many referrals from http to my website in GA. Can anyone provide a hint?

    • Karsten Andersen

      What about Google Analytics, when I switch from http til https.
      Should I set up a new Analytics account — or can I just continue with my old Analytics script?

      • Anthony Williams

        You do not need to change it, at least for CMS sites. I once worried about the exact same thing until I tested it myself one several domains. Using GA > Reporting > Realtime > Overview for a property, browser requests over http://( port 80) and https:// (port 443) can be made for doing this testing.

        Simple GA Test for HTTP vs HTTPS

        Initial GA Tracking Verification
        The Property Setting > Default URL (http/https) was switched to http:// and I loaded the main url over http://, Real-Time confirmed tracking is working.

        Load HTTP on HTTPS Default URL Property
        Property Setting > Default URL (http/https) was switched to https:// and I loaded the main url over http://, Real-Time confirmed tracking is working.

        Load HTTPS on HTTP Default URL Property
        Property Setting > Default URL (http/https) was switched to http:// and I loaded the main url over https://, Real-Time confirmed again that tracking is still working.

        I did this with images, several pages, and the main url for each test property. Same result. My tests were all done on Magento and Woocommerce CMS platforms, your GA code implementation may be different though.

        I now have several client websites forced to load all resources over https (443) via .htaccess instruction. These sites still report everything fine to GA even with Enhanced eCommerce functions enabled on an http:// default URL setting. I knew this would be the case thanks to lots of other testing completed with dummy eCommerce sample data and voided transactions on test domains. 

        Data from before and after the SSL integrations are all present. My of my older backlinks still point to http:// and I have had absolutely no SEO issues from changing over to SSL for my eCommerce client sites. Search Console is your friend with this kind of testing. I just left my GA properties to http:// since it did not make a difference. However, to be super safe you could change the default URL to to https:// and use the .htaccess trick to make sure everything is https all the time. Old data will still be present after the change. Thanks Google 🙂

        Remember, Say NO to Crash Test SEO! I highly recommend doing your own testing for anything SEO related.

    • would my reference links and backlinks be affected by switching to HTTPS ?

    • Nice Write Michael! Thanks!

    • Thanks for sharing this information. To reply to a question about the incoming links, they shouldn’t be affected. I recently moved to https a few sites and webmaster tools is starting to show the old links pointing to the http version as well.

    • Is it really??? because my site is secured (HTTPS ) and perfectly optimized with on page factors along with working on the process of off page. but no growth

      in contrast many other webstie which are not having HTTP also, are on the first page, please clarify me

    • Of course the article doesn’t explain how this useful for a say simple blog that does not store user data. Why would it need to be secure in the https sense?

    • Len Pritchard

      I would also add that for smaller businesses who may be on a reseller’s shared server, it is essential that they get a dedicated IP address. The TLS extension SNI is designed to handle multiple SSL certificates on a single IP address but when it fails the results are catastrophic as Google can pick up browser headers from other domains on the server and apply them to your website.

    • Hey Michael Hernandez thanks for sharing this info, A small question, Is it compulsory to take SSL from a trusted provider coz there are many SSL trusted provider with low price to high price. Does google check trusted provider SSL while ranking on google search result. I’m using free version of SSL provided by Linux Server will it hurt my ranking..Let me know your thoughts on the same

    • I am not seeing all my blog comments on Disqus when I switch from HTTP to HTTPS. Is this on my part or the commenter’s part? Do I need to re-install Disqus?

    • Joesuph Enders

      I actually have seen my site go from first page to 3rd page right when I switched. I had closely followed instructions and recommendations for SEO and Google Webmaster tools I made a bunch of adjustments for SEO, and search console indexing, keywords, etc. And it moved up to 2nd page near the top, but since then, it is now at the bottom of the 2nd page and it’s been 3 weeks exactly since I switched. It seems as if Google is treating it like a new site, rather than my old http site, so I lost my first page placement and hit couts. The sitemaster tools search console recommendations tell you to add the https site, and keep the http site there too. I wonder if at this point, maybe I should delete that one?

      • I am facing the same issue. Do you see a https mark for your website in google search? Also, have your website’s seo and ranking increased?

      • 301 redirect http links to https.

    • I have moved my site to https. But now I am wondering what will happen to all my links from other sites that were given as http. Will my site loose the ranking signals coming from those sites.
      Please guide.
      Thanks

      • Use 301 redirects, then you’ll lose nothing.

        • Renan,
          I used redirect code for non www version to www verison in apache server.Now i am planning to move http to https.So is we need to add separate redirect code for non www version to www verison and http to https .If the answer is no what is the code we need to use. Waiting for your reply.Thanks in advance.

          • You can have multiple rules without any problem (max 3 hops).

            First you will keep your non www to www rule, but do it direct to https version, then redirect http to https.

            Sample (1 or 2 hops, according your url):

            RewriteEngine On

            # non www to www (plus, with https)
            RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www. [NC]
            RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

            # http to https
            RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
            RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

    • I say a drop in Google Adsense and traffic on switching to https.
      What to do? It’s just been a day. Is it normal?

    • N3xus

      please note that https slows down the request time so only use ssl if you deliver secret information or use https for forms like login etc; if you only have information, stay at http

    • For people facing drops in rankings, 301 redirect http links to https links. It will help.
      if already had redirected, then wait for some days.

    • COOL…I guess we can wait to see

    • I wonder if full page rank is passed to your site from backlinks once you have moved your site to https?

      • Conqueror

        no, you will loose all the backlinks, your web will be treated as almost new web, all from http is gone, and there is no SEO benefit or any rank benefit if you switch to https, happened to me when my web switched to https (due to heavy hackers attack 8 months ago). I moved to another dedicated server, hired system engineer who recommended to switch to https… so I did, my web used to be ranked by alexa under 200.000 in the world when it was http, now is ranked 2,6 millionth, total disaster. web is polished and in perfect shape, seo is made for every text, every page, every article, but ranking is disaster, no inquiries from my clients… same time last year web was on http, I was managing it myself (I am amateur), and there were 3–5 inquiries every day from my clients. now — zero inquiries, perfect website, but google treat it like brand new, I lost all my 1st page keyword positions in organic search results. google must be joking with us. switching to https is not advantage. it is problem.

        • Adam Lavery

          This and the post below raise real and genuine concerns over switching to HTTPS. Google treats this as a site move, but it is not. It’s a simple protocol switch. Who in their right mind would serve different content on HTTPS than on HTTP for the same URL? Perhaps Google have a deep-rooted problem with their algorithm that forces them to treat a URL as a complete single entity and thus cannot simply differentiate the same “URL” (which for most is considered as the part after the protocol) being delivered on a different protocol.

          A client of mine recently took a 9 month hit on search traffic after switching to a new site. Mostly the same but improved content, all necessary redirects were in place and a fully-loaded sitemap provided. But it has taken Google 9 months to work through old, dead URLs and finally get around to properly indexing the site as it is now (and was 9 months ago).

          Google says there will be a “temporary” hit to rankings, but 9 months? 9 days would be too long.

          Switching to HTTPS would be simple — but we’re scared of the Impact this will have on search traffic. Google has done and is doing nothing whatsoever to ease the switch which they themselves are recommending.

    • doesn’t look to be good move to switch to https. it slows down the site tremendously thanks to the additional handshake with certificate authority. and not to mention google has to reindex all pages which will take its own sweet time. Do it only if you are taking personal information from customer like credit card or address details.

    • Oliver Kody

      Q: In regards to best SEO value for SSL
      Does it make ANY difference which type of certificate is used? SSL certificates come in a variety of flavors (and price points). For instance, Comodo (an SSL cert provider) offers two distinctive versions:

      1. SSL Certificate
      2. EV SSL Certificate

      Is there an added SEO benefit for the higher priced EV (Extended Validation) certificate? Or is this just marketing hype?? If there is added value, can you assess the marginal benefit?

    • is there any effect on ranking after moving https?

      • allinsidepl

        Yes. After one week my website is out of google index and I get two manual penaltly — one for domain with www and second without www. So it‘s great ranking effect!

    • Does food blogs will gain weight-age (content based)

    • We are using https for shop and http for our blog will that create any issues in future

    • I have few websites which have about 10K of pages each and are well indexed in Google. Now after the announcement made by Google I moved one of my website to https.

      After moving, indexed pages in Google increase form 10K to 17K which created duplicate pages. After couple of months my website came back to its original index status and traffic.

      Google should give a option for all the website which moved form http to https to increase its crawl rate.

    • Hi.. I have a fashion blog and I am using HTTP for it.. Should I move it to HTTPS? Please advice..

    • Jigar Savla

      I can help you out

    • endovdline

      I also have a website that disappeared from google index on the switch to https. 301 redirects were useless. On another website I did not notice any improvement but it also did not worsen nor disappeared from google. Both on the same server and with similar php code. I still can not understand it !

    • I did and i don’t loose any ranking on Google, but my conversions was boosted. Also, who cares about Alexa numbers? Conversions > Alexa.

    • Im a bit scared, but after my first test, i have one keyword in higher serp in one week 🙂

    • Como va, sigue todo ok con el cambio? yo llevo 1 semana con el cambio y vi mejoras en un par de keywords, como te fue a ti?

    • Thank you for such an detailed informative article. Most of my queries have been cleared except only one. How much time does it take to transfer all the metrics from http to https change?

    • It may be good but shifting from http to https can be disastrous to your ranking as you may lost all your backlinks. Isn’t it?

    • yesterday, transferred my domain HTTP to HTTPS and i figured out some ranking are down. is there any issue with my transferring or will back automatically.